Published: Tue, April 09, 2019
Sport | By Kayla Schwartz

Women's amateur brings family pilgrimage to Augusta National

Women's amateur brings family pilgrimage to Augusta National

Tournament champion Jennifer Kupcho, a Wake Forest senior who is the world's top-ranked amateur, was every bit the sports hero on this course that Tiger and Phil and Jack have been.

Deadlocked with three holes to play, Kupcho sank a tense six-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th while Fassi missed a short par putt, leaving the American two shots ahead.

After playing the last six holes in 5 under to race past Maria Fassi, Kupcho embraced her close friend on the 18th green as the crowd - wrapped 15 deep around the closing hole - roared their approval.

Augusta National conducted a lottery for the event last fall and capped the $75 tickets at a number that was believed to be about two-thirds of what would attend the Masters on a tournament day.

After bogeying the first hole, Fassi had four birdies on the front nine. "That's really going to be something big in the women's game", said Kupcho.

"It's just like it's hard to explain in words because I never expected it to be that special" said Ana Belac. But the fact she even got the opportunity to do it speaks volumes about how the perception of women in sport, and Augusta National, is changing for the better.

"I can't wait to see what the future [holds] for her".

Ron Townsend became the first African-American member in 1990 but it would be another two decades before women were admitted with former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and financier Darla Moore allowed through the doors in 2012.

Ridley liked the way it looked on paper, and loved it even more when the women arrived for dinner at the club on Tuesday and he saw the expression on their faces and heard excitement in their voices.

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"I think we're going to really start something great in women's golf", Kupcho said at the trophy presentation.

"What I'm hoping for, is that by showing these women in an iconic setting to show their skills and the elite athletes that they are, it is going to be very inspiring to them as they leave to go back to their schools and homes and their countries, " said Fred Ridley, Augusta National chairman.

If this is what hell looks like when it freezes over, I think we need to see more of it.

Two bogeys in Fassi's last three holes spoiled what was an otherwise captivating duel between two of the most high-profile amateurs in the world.

There are no more unlikely feminists on earth than the green-jacketed members cloistered within the gates of Augusta National Golf Club. Yes it was. From a stirring early-morning ceremony at the first tee featuring several Hall of Famers including Nancy Lopez and Annika Sorenstam, to the supremely confident strides of this next generation of Title IX products, to the skilled, crisp play they exhibited on a hard golf course they hardly knew, it most definitely was happening. "It gave me confidence that I was able to wrap up with a good score".

The fact is, however, that women have always been a part of the history of Augusta National, albeit the dark chapter of exclusion. On the 13th, she smashed a 3-hybrid second shot from 211 yards to 12 feet and made the eagle putt. After hitting a drive into the center of the fairway, Kupco hit a phenomenal second shot over the water to within 10 feet, and drained the eagle putt. No matter the outcome, she plays happy and has fun on the course.

The global field, which included 72 players from 25 countries at the start of the championship, was well-represented on the leader board.

With clear vision returning on the 11th, and with the support of her Augusta National caddie, Kupcho was unstoppable down the stretch.

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